Did the letters help?
  • Stacie Scott/Sun-Times Media
  • Did the letters help?

Eric Zorn wrote a column the other day that perplexed me. It confronted me. I wanted him not to be right but Zorn usually is, so I stopped trying to think it through. But a minute ago I was sweeping the kitchen with an empty mind and Zorn’s argument blew back into it.

What he reported, on October 5, was that James Zagel, the federal judge in the William Cellini trial, said from the bench at sentencing that three “prominent journalists” had sent him letters supporting leniency.

“Who are these three?” Zorn wondered. “No one is saying, and their names are in a sealed file.”

I wonder too. We all do. Zagel was lenient—Cellini got a year and a day behind bars—and Zorn observed that the good word from three people who enjoy “extra credibility” for being journalists could only have helped. He disapproved in language so strong I winced.